Lebanese government in ‘fantasy land’ amid crisis, says UN envoy

Lebanese government officials have no sense of urgency and are not taking responsibility for an economic crisis that has “brutally impoverished” the population, an independent United Nations envoy told Reuters in an interview.
“I am very impressed by the fact that this is a state that, if it has not failed yet, is failing and that the needs of the population are still not being met,” Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and rights he said at the end of a two-week mission studying poverty in Lebanon.

“They are in a fantasy land,” De Schutter said. “It does not bode well for the future of the country.”

De Schutter met with senior officials, including nine ministers, the prime minister and the speaker of parliament during his visit.

An official source in Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s office did not comment on his opinion, but pointed to the fact that Mikati had a productive meeting this week with another UN official, the executive director of the World Food Program, David Beasley.

Leading businessman Najib Mikati gestures at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, on July 26, 2021. (Credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR / REUTERS)

The United Nations says that nearly three-quarters of the nation’s previously middle-income population now suffer from poverty, which has increased during an economic crisis rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement.

Banks imposed informal controls on withdrawals and the currency lost more than 90% of its value since 2019 in what the World Bank has called a “deliberate depression” and one of the world’s worst financial crashes since 1850.

“This is a huge loss of wealth across the country that is unprecedented,” De Schutter said, noting that losses in Lebanon’s banking sector, estimated in a 2020 government plan at around $ 83 billion, they should be taken over by bank shareholders and large depositors, not ordinary people.

Western nations have offered aid in exchange for reforms, but Lebanon was without a permanent government for 13 months in the wake of the deadly Beirut explosion in August 2020, and a new cabinet formed in September has not met in a month in between. of a political dispute.

De Schutter said he would recommend the immediate implementation of social protection programs stalled for months, an increase in the minimum wage and a wealth tax to combat the world’s leading inequality rates.

Its final report will be published in early 2022.

De Schutter said that while Pope John Paul II once referred to Lebanon as a “message” of sectarian coexistence, it had since become “a warning to the world” about the results of “a very unhealthy alliance between very wealthy businessmen and political elites. ” . “



Reference-www.jpost.com

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